3 out of 4 stars
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Fearfully Brave, written by Jen Zahari, Madi, Hannah, and Angie Bush, is the first installment of the Fun with Feelings children's series. As the book states, this series is meant "to help educate children about feelings, to acknowledge that all feelings are good and serve a purpose." The recommended audience for this book is 3- to 10-year-old children.
In Inspiration Woods, Felix the Fox and Bart the Bear are going on a picnic to nearby Feelings Falls. On their adventure, Felix, who is very fearful, learns that stepping outside of his comfort zone and being brave can be fruitful. Brave Bart, on the other hand, discovers that sometimes fear can be useful and that it never hurts to be prepared for things to go awry.
While I've come across many books that praise bravery, I haven't found one which acknowledges that fear can be useful - until now. This story manages to do so by equating fearfulness with caution and preparedness. The clever juxtaposition of a brave character with a fearful one, each of whom has something to learn, allows for the strengths of both to be highlighted equally. I appreciated that they were able to find a way to show the positive attributes of each feeling without having to resort to making its opposite look undesirable. The contrast helps illustrate that both can be good and that bravery and fear aren't necessarily independent of one another.
Some of these lessons might be a bit nuanced for younger readers. To help them, the authors included two pages that detail what each character learned. After this, there are some drawing and writing prompts, such as: "What does fear look like to you?" and "What makes you feel brave?" These are not only great introspective and creative exercises for children, but they serve as handy conversation starters between children and their parents, caregivers, teachers, etc.
Children will also appreciate the large, colorful illustrations that dominate each page. They're vivid and cute with a lot of detail. However, sometimes the amount of detail doesn't work in their favor; there are some continuity errors (such as bags changing colors frequently or trees randomly appearing). One picture was titled "Inspirational Woods," but their home is called Inspiration Woods throughout the story.
Underneath each image is a single block of text. The font is large and easy to read. Unfortunately, the single-block format can make the dialogue difficult to read at times, thanks to the lack of a line break to differentiate speakers. This style might have worked better if there hadn't been a handful of grammar errors (most of which involved improper punctuation in dialogue).
With another round of editing, I would happily give this book a rating of four stars. It has a lot of strengths, namely the messages about fear and bravery. However, as it stands, I give Fearfully Brave 3 out of 4 stars.
I would recommend this book to parents, caregivers, and teachers who want to teach their child/student about emotions, specifically fearfulness and bravery. I would especially recommend this to anxious children. It might encourage them to feel braver, but it won't leave them feeling as if feeling fearful is some kind of fatal flaw.
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